Top 10 Common Teaching Mistakes for Teachers to Avoid
People enter the teaching profession because they want to make a positive difference in society. Even teachers with the purest intentions can inadvertently complicate their mission if they’re not careful. However, new teachers (and even veterans sometimes!) will have to work hard to conscientiously avoid common pitfalls that can make the job even harder than it inherently is.
Do yourself a favor and avoid these common teaching traps. You’ll thank me for it later!
1. Aiming To Be Buddies With Their Students
Inexperienced teachers often fall into the trap of wanting their students to like them above all else. However, if you do this, you are damaging your ability to control the classroom, which in turn compromises the children’s education. This is the last thing you want to do, right?
Instead, focus on earning your students’ respect, admiration, and appreciation. Once you realize that your students will like you more when you are principled and fair with them, you’ll be on the right track.
2. Being Too Easy On Discipline
This mistake is a corollary to the last one. For various reasons, teachers often start out the year with a lax discipline plan or, even worse, no plan at all! Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t let them see you smile until Christmas”? That may be extreme, but the sentiment is correct: start out tough because you can always relax your rules as time progresses if it is appropriate. But it is next to impossible to become tougher once you’ve shown your pliant side.
3. Not Setting Up Proper Organization from the Start
Until you’ve completed a full year of teaching, you are unable to comprehend how much paper accumulates in an elementary school classroom. Even after the first week of school, you’ll look around at the piles with astonishment! And all these papers must be dealt with by YOU!
You can avoid some of these paper-induced headaches by setting up a sensible organization system from day one and, most importantly, using it every day! Labeled files, folders, and cubbies are your friend. Be disciplined and toss or sort all papers immediately. Remember, a tidy desk contributes to a focused mind.
4. Minimizing Parental Communication and Involvement
At first, it can feel intimidating to deal with your students’ parents. You might be tempted to “fly under the radar” with them, in order to avoid confrontations and questions. However with this approach, you are squandering a precious resource. The parents associated with your classroom can help make your job easier, by volunteering in your class or supporting behavior programs at home. Communicate clearly with these parents from the start and you’ll have a band of allies to make your entire school year flow more smoothly.
5. Getting involved in school Politics
This pitfall is an equal opportunity offender for both new and veteran teachers. Like all workplaces, the elementary school campus can be rife with squabbles, grudges, backstabbing, and vendettas. It’s a slippery slope if you agree to listen to gossip because, before you know it, you’ll be taking sides and immersing yourself in between warring factions. The political fallout can be brutal. Better to just keep your interactions friendly and neutral, while focusing intently on the work with your students. Avoid politics at all costs and your teaching career will thrive!
6. Remaining Isolated From the School Community
As an addendum to the previous warning, you’ll want to avoid school politics, but not at the expense of being insulated and alone in the world of your classroom. Attend social events, eat lunch in the staff room, say hello in the halls, help colleagues when you can, and reach out to the teachers around you. You never know when you will need the support of your teaching team, and if you’ve been a hermit for months, it’s going to be more challenging for you to get what you need at that point.
7. Working Too Hard and Burning Out
It’s understandable why teaching has the highest turnover rate of any profession. Most people can’t hack it for long. And if you keep burning the candles at both ends, the next teacher to quit might be you! Work smart, be effective, take care of your responsibilities, but go home at a decent hour. Enjoy time with your family and set aside time to relax and rejuvenate.
And here’s the most difficult advice to follow: don’t let classroom problems affect your emotional wellbeing and your ability to enjoy life away from school. Make a real effort to be happy. Your students need a joyful teacher each day!
8. Not Asking For Help
Teachers can be a proud bunch. Our job requires superhuman skills, so we often strive to appear as superheroes who can handle any problem that comes our way.
But that simply can’t be the case. Don’t be afraid to appear vulnerable, admit mistakes, and ask your colleagues or administrators for assistance. Look around your school and you will see centuries of teaching experience represented by your fellow teachers. More often than not, these professionals are generous with their time and advice. Ask for help and you just might discover that you’re not as alone as you thought you were.
9. Being Overly Optimistic and Too Easily Crushed
This pitfall is one that new teachers should be especially careful to avoid. New teachers often join the profession because they are idealistic, optimistic, and ready to change the world! This is great because your students (and veteran teachers) need your fresh energy and innovative ideas.
But don’t venture into Pollyanna land. You’ll only end up frustrated and disappointed. Recognize that there will be tough days where you want to throw in the towel. There will be times when your best efforts aren’t enough. Know that the tough times will pass, and they are a small price to pay for teaching’s joys.
10. Being Too Hard On Yourself
Teaching is hard enough without the additional challenge of mental anguish over slip-ups, mistakes, and imperfections. Nobody’s perfect. Even the most decorated and experienced teachers make poor decisions every so often. Forgive yourself for the day’s blemishes, erase the slate, and gather your mental strength for the next time it’s needed. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Practice the same compassion that you show your students by turning that understanding on yourself.